The Year Of Reverso
We sat down with Jaeger-LeCoultre CEO Catherine Rénier, to discuss Reverso in its 90th year.
Robb Report: We can’t begin anywhere other than the Reverso Quadriptyque, the most complicated Reverso and what we’re calling the release of the year. Can you explain how this came to be, from original brief to here?
Catherine Rénier: The first idea came after the Triptyque in 2006. We wanted to have a Reverso as complex or even more complex, adding a minute repeater and so that was the beginning around 2010. And these types of ideas mature and then about six years ago it took shape in a design and as a project—the four faces with the lunar cycles and the minute repeater, and then it’s years of back and forth between our constructors and the laboratory and of course our design team.
RR: It’s such a special piece, and another notch for the revered Reverso name. What is it that has enabled the Reverso to be such a standout, and for such a long time?
CR: Look at it in the ‘30s and the case already has the key elements and we’ve remained extremely faithful to this design this year, within the golden ratio and the balance … The simplicity gives it a timelessness and it stands out and is still understated and elegant and not overpowering; a design that can go through the years and is one of a kind with the reversible case. What also makes it unique is that it talks to men and women, a unique twist … It’s also not a sports watch, it’s not a round watch—it’s Reverso. There are several icons in watchmaking and this one remains true to itself.
RR: How would you describe its overall importance to JLC. A centrepiece, right?
CR: It’s been a brand within the brand its whole life but it also has its own identity. And yes it is central to who we are and the brand—and we want to protect and nurture its future, we feel a responsibility to keep it going for the next 90 years and more. It is part of our thought process in innovation and our collections—there’s always a touch of Reverso in all that we do even if it is not the main focus like in 2020.
RR: One thing I’ve always been fascinated by is for all its reach Reverso remains less known in Asian markets. How do you change that and how important are those markets to JLC?
CR: Put it this way, there is a special relationship with Europe and Reverso. It’s been part of the landscape for decades. It’s more recent in Asia and it has more of a new face than in Europe. We see that the appeal is strong and recognition is fast growing—and so they are catching up.
RR: And that market importance to the brand, specifically China?
CR: In 2020, it was a key market as when everything more or less shut down it was the first to open. And it pretty much hasn’t closed since then—it’s a market that has grown tremendously the last 10-15 years and of course is key to our business, though it’s one of many pieces. We opened Sydney and Melbourne also. In fact we opened Melbourne the week of [the first] lockdown and so we also have followed that closely.
RR: Yes, JLC has obvious confidence in Australia and has for some time now …
CR: We will have been there for a while and now with our own footprint and experience of the manufacture—and it’s a market that I personally discovered and have seen the great potential of when I was based in Asia for ten years.
RR: You’ve mentioned 2020—a brutal year for so many and in your world a very tough one to navigate. What are the positives that you’ve taken from that period?
CR: There were a lot of learnings, of course. We adapted as stores closed and we couldn’t travel and this happened overnight … I look at the resilience and the ability of the teams and our people and I know, okay, if something bad happens again we know what we are able to do and so you gain a sense of confidence in that. It was a year of digital and it was also a time we saw strong interest in our products and our industry—and it’s very resilient, this craftsmanship. People want to celebrate and have moments that are meaningful, and we’ve seen that coming back to gifting watches for an anniversary or a birthday, it took on a whole new meaning and felt good to come to craftsmanship and have something concrete to wear everyday.
RR: There’s always a need for the tangible in dealing with such artistry …
CR: We’ve learnt to do everything in a more rounded way. It’s nice to shop in a store and touch and feel but then to also buy online is okay too, on the sofa at an alternative time because you couldn’t make up your mind in the boutique. This is how things will happen now. I don’t believe that digital will overshadow everything else. We need contact and touch and feel.
RR: You’ve been in the chair now for three years, and weathered a major storm and pushed forward into this celebratory year. You must be proud of what you’ve managed. What are your personal learnings so far?
CR: I’ve learnt that in moments like these [COVID] you bond together and I’ve been super proud of the teams and how they all picked up to transform and to challenge … You never dream of COVID years again, but it was one of a kind and you discover people and you discover yourself and you come together in a different way. I’m not happy to have gone through it but I’m proud as I feel we are stronger than we were before. As for me, I learnt everything can change suddenly and so things can be shattered and done differently and that gave me perspective on change and adaptation, and confidence that even in tough times you can find your way.
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